The Davenport House is a Federal-style house that was constructed in 1820 by master-builder Isaiah Davenport. Davenport was known for his skill and talents in the building industry and the house served as a showcase of his work as well as a family home. He lived in the house with his wife and family until he passed away from yellow fever in 1827. When threatened with demolition in the mid 1950’s, seven Savannah women got together to save the Davenport House.
Their success was the founding act of the Historic Savannah Foundation. Today, the Davenport House is on the National Register of Historic Places and a treasured stop on any Savannah tour. The dignified mansion is a true architectural masterpiece with three dormer windows, a soaring elliptical staircase, ornate plaster work and woodwork and polished hardwood floors. Furnishings and collectibles throughout the home are reminiscent of the 1820’s and a delight for guests to view.
Situated on the northwest corner of Columbia Square, the Davenport House is a brick Federal-style mansion built in 1820. Master builder Isaiah Davenport constructed the property to accommodate his growing family and demonstrate his talents to prospective clients. The home features a brownstone and imported English brick façade accentuated by a double staircase with an ornamental railing. The 6,800-square-foot mansion is one of Savannah’s oldest brick structures.
Brief History of the Davenport House
After completing his carpentry apprenticeship in New Bedford, Massachusetts, Davenport relocated to Savannah in 1809. He would construct several of the city’s elegant Federal and Georgian-style homes. While most homes at the time were constructed from wood, Davenport used brick to highlight his growing wealth and social status. Upon his death in 1827 from yellow fever, his wife partitioned the home into a boarding house. She would live in the residence until the Baynard family of Hilton Head purchased it 13 years later. Over the ensuing decades, the home fell on hard times and became a rundown rooming house. Even in an advanced state of neglect, the home was still recognized for its architectural significance by the New Deal surveyors as part of the Historic American Building Survey conducted in the 1930s.
When the mansion was threatened with demolition in the mid-1950s, a group of citizens concerned about preserving the city’s architectural heritage formed the Historic Savannah Foundation. Their first official act was to purchase the Davenport House, which served as their headquarters for a number of years. Beginning with the first floor in 1955, the foundation began the painstaking restoration work required to return the home to its former glory and create the museum. The process was completed seven years later. The Davenport House Museum has received numerous prestigious awards.
Must See Exhibits
The three-story interior features stunning details like intricate plasterwork and a staircase that appears to float in midair. Various rooms are furnished with period pieces and decorated with wallpaper and lighting to reflect how the home would have looked when it served as the Davenport home. The interpretation is based on research that included the inventory conducted at the time of Davenport’s death and the sale of his estate. The preservation society also used biographical records. The museum’s 500-piece collection includes ceramics, textiles and historic children’s toys. A centerpiece of the collection is a drawing of the home’s exterior facade by local artist Christopher Murphy. It was originally part of a set of drawings that the artist completed in the 1920s entitled “Five Beautiful Doorways at Savannah.” The rear of the home, which once contained a carriage house, is the setting for an ornately landscaped garden.
Know Before You Go
The Davenport House Museum is located at the intersection of East State and Habersham streets in the Historic Landmark District. It is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. The museum opens at 1 p.m. on Sundays. The house museum closes at 1 p.m. the day before Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. It is closed St. Patrick’s Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. The museum is closed for cleaning the second and third full weeks of January. Guided tours start at the top of each hour. The last tour starts at 4 p.m. After the guided tour, which takes approximately 30 to 40 minutes, you are free to explore the garden on your own. Children under the age of six are admitted free. Metered street parking is located nearby. Parking garages are also available within a short walking distance.
Columbia Square was laid out in 1799. It was named in honor of Columbia, the female personification of the United States. The ornate Wormsloe Fountain is the centerpiece of Columbia Square. Originally located on the Wormsloe Plantation, it was relocated to the square in 1970.
Operated by the Telfair Museums, the Owens-Thomas House features a columned portico and an exterior façade made from tabby, a regional material consisting of lime, sand and shells. It is one of the few remaining examples of Regency-style architecture in Savannah. The interior is furnished with period pieces and Owens family heirlooms. The property also includes an English-inspired garden and one of the earliest extant slave quarters in the city.
The Webb Military Museum features a collection of military artifacts from the Civil War to the present. The collection chronicles the personal histories and changes that veterans have experienced in war and peace as each artifact relays a unique and interesting individual story.
If you’re interested in visiting the Davenport House and other historic attractions around Savannah, we make it easy with our Historic Homes tour!